Arsino's Letter to Her Sister
by Jacqueline West



If you had let me live,
there is much I might have told you.
The way to my hidden spot on the river,
where the rushes are as tall as a door
and open for me when they hear my breath.
The tune I learned from the old flutist,
the dancing steps that go along, toe to note.
Even my secret name for you;
I might have whispered it into your ear.
How small is my view of the world.
The cartouche of a window, then street, temple,
water.  Sometimes I dream of you
on your barge, coasting the current, guards
holding spears around your sweet sleep
as you move out of memory, out of my reach.
I might even have told you
my own dreams: a kiss, a fan, a cat to curl
on my pillow.  How I would rather
be sister to a queen than take more.  My hands
are small, no good for fighting off
the man you sent with his bleached Grecian skin,
his sharp blade, his shoulders rolling
solid as a tombstone between me and everything else.
I would have told you that you chose well.
I would have told you that his eyes were beautiful. 



About the Author:

Jacqueline West's work has appeared in journals including ChiZine, Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, Illumen, flashquake, and Prick of the Spindle.  Her first novel, a dark fantasy for young readers, is forthcoming from Dial in summer 2010.  More about her work can be found at




Poem 2009 Jacqueline West. Photo by Katharina Surhoff, 2007.